Edward and Sophie’s wedding ‘disappointment’ after snubbing tradition

Prince Edward and Sophie discuss their engagement in 1999

Prince Edward, and his wife, Sophie, Duchess of Edinburgh, began married life intending to pursue private careers. Their wedding, held at St George’s Chapel, reflected their desire to keep certain aspects of their life out of the spotlight. And, according to a former royal staffer, there was a lot of “disappointment” at a particular decision made by the couple.

Channel 5’s 2020 documentary, Edward and Sophie: The Reluctant Royals, explored how the pair have grown since they wed in June 1999.

Recalling their big day, Dickie Arbiter, former royal press secretary, said: “There was a lot of media disappointment when the bride and groom came out of St George’s Chapel. [They] stood on the top of the steps outside, and they didn’t kiss.”

Ayesha Hazarika, royal expert and commentator, added: “I think they decided, ‘You know what, we’re going to actually not give the press what they want and we’re also going to send a signal that we are not 100 percent public property. We do want to have some privacy.’”

With a guestlist of around 550, Sophie and Edward’s nuptials were more intimate than a typical royal wedding.

“There was still obviously a lot of pomp and ceremony and all the key figures from the Royal Family were there,” Ms Hazarika explained.

“It wasn’t like it was just down the local church. But it just did have a feeling that it was a little more low key, which, I think, is quite fitting because it sort of set the tone for how they have ended up conducting their future life.”

At the time, Sophie was running her own PR firm, while Edward was working at Ardent Productions, which he founded in 1993.

However, soon after their wedding, the pair faced difficulties in their professional lives. In 2001, a scandal saw Sophie become the victim of the “fake sheikh” undercover reporter.

Mazher Mahmoud allegedly lured Sophie to a meeting under the pretence of securing a lucrative PR contract. He was secretly recording their conversations, which heard Sophie criticising then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Cherie.

But perhaps most damning, Sophie seemed to abuse her royal connection, saying: “When people find we’re working for you, the chances are you’ll get people interested. [They’ll say,] ‘Oh, gosh, they’ve employed the Countess of Wessex’s PR company.’”

Once the scandal went public, the royal stepped down from her position at her firm, releasing a statement which read: “I am deeply distressed by the carrying out of an entrapment operation on me and my business but I also much regret my own misjudgment in succumbing to that subterfuge.”

“This has been a difficult time for me. I take very seriously the issues raised and, naturally, regret any embarrassment above all to the Queen.”

Meanwhile, Edward was facing challenges at his production company. Despite releasing a well-received ITV documentary about his great-uncle Edward VIII — who famously abdicated the throne to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson — Ardent Productions was largely seen as a “joke” within the industry, as the head of one of the company’s more successful counterparts told The Guardian in 2002.

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That same year, Edward left the company, and he and Sophie began life as full-time working royals.

Now, the couple has established themselves as integral members of the Royal Family and were recently recognised as a formidable force by King Charles III, who made his youngest brother the new Duke of Edinburgh, bestowing upon him the esteemed title once held by their father Prince Philip.

Despite a rocky introduction to royal life, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh have become “two of the strongest faces within the Royal Family,” according to one royal expert.

Kinsey Schofield, founder and creator of LA-based site ToDiForDaily.com, told Express.co.uk: “I think that Sophie and Edward are a great example of forgiveness within the Royal Family. They attempted to half in half out — Sophie wanted to continue with her PR firm and Edward wanted to be a producer, he wanted to produce content.”

She continued: “And when they kind of got in trouble for mixing that royal element in with their day-to-day monetised businesses and they were humiliated — the Royal Family allowed them to come back in.

“They are two of the most important faces in the Royal Family right now, that tells you that forgiveness is there and forgiveness is possible, not only within the family but within the world. Now, these are two of the strongest faces within the Royal Family and within the brand itself.”

Edward and Sophie will likely join the Royal Family in marking their first Easter without Queen Elizabeth II, and with the pair living just a short distance away from Windsor Castle, may continue the late monarch’s annual tradition of attending the Easter Sunday service at St George’s Chapel.

This year, the church has a particularly special sentiment for the Royal Family: it is where both Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were laid to rest.

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